With Eyes of Faith

I’m waiting for my daughter, standing in the back of her youth group, watching how these young people are interacting. The music is a touch louder than I might prefer. The speaker and the singers scream a bit more than I’m used to. My bee girl is sitting by herself, and the worried dad in me hopes she hasn’t been left alone the whole night.

The service is wrapping up, they’re all singing one more song. Some friends join my daughter, and everyone is called to the front.

The speaker offers a simple invitation to relationship and life in Christ. A couple hands shoot up. Cheers break out. Applause echoes through the room.

The realist in me knows that so many youth from my generation turned away from their faith as young adults.

Worried dad hopes my daughter doesn’t join their ranks.

The cynic hopes those raised hands are sincere.

But eyes of faith picture angels rejoicing as lost sheep are found.

And worried dad remembers the Father’s arms wrapping around this prodigal son when i wandered off years ago.

So i look at my daughter in the crowd, and I know it’s going to be all right.

Strong Language

Continuing the A to Z blog challenge, we come to ‘T’ for which I have chosen theology.

As worshipers seeking God, we must have an understanding of Who He is and what He says. We need words for how He interacts with us and the qualities He displays. Theology provides us with that language, and gives us a much-needed standard (as near to a standard as one can get with matters of faith) which keeps us going straight.

We are to be people of truth – another strong contender for the T blog – since Jesus declared that those who worship the Father must worship in spirit and in truth.

Theology is the active study of that truth, the search and observation of God’s interactions with humanity, the organization and classification of thoughts and concepts about God. It’s the ‘science’ of religion, supplying clear vocabulary, enabling in-depth discussion and further study.

Research by people like George Barna and David Kinneman show a Western Christianity that is dreadful in its lack of theological foundation. There are far too many of our brothers and sisters running around proclaiming maturity after years in church pews, but with little to no grasp of core biblical truths. People would claim to follow Christ and yet hold to teachings that directly contradict Scripture.

It’s like kindergarteners playing house, trying to imitate the grown-ups around them.

I’m talking about myself in so many ways here. If I think I’m above all that, and I have such better understanding, all I’m doing is making myself the spiritual emo kid standing off to the side watching everyone else with contempt while remaining completely uninvolved in anything productive or beneficial to the kingdom. So I’m no better, nor am I claiming to be.

Disciplined efforts to learn more about God – not just through personal experience but through systematic study of the established truths of Scripture – this is part of what I believe it means to worship in truth.

We don’t just rely on haphazard encounters with God. We also benefit from intentionally engaging God’s Word with the perspective of teachers in the Body and the works of spiritual giants in the past. That way, we’re not learning every so often as we go about playing church, we’re building our understanding in the same way that 2nd grade material builds on 1st, and 3rd grade lessons require a grasp of the 2nd grade teachings.

The writer of Hebrews speaks to his audience about their need for basic teachings, and indicates that a discipline of practice will help believers mature properly:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14 NASB)

In the same way, Paul talks about taking full advantage of the gifts provided to the church:

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, (Ephesians 4:14, 15 NASB)

Strong theology gives us powerful words that fuel our worship. As we realize more and more who God is and what He has done for us, we find more reasons to draw nearer, more cause to praise Him, more passion to help us chase after Him.

And when we find Him, overwhelmed by the reality of His love, we worship in response to the truth.

Remember

Still catching up from the lazy weekend. I hope to get S and T tomorrow, thereby getting back on track.

Saturday was R in the A to Z blog challenge. My ‘R’ is something I believe drives our lifestyle of worship and fuels our desire to chase God’s presence:

Remember.

When Jesus speaks to the church of Ephesus, He says, “You’ve forgotten your first love. Remember from where you have fallen; repent and do what you did at first” (Rev 2:4-5).

In the Old Testament, several times we see the people of God set up stones and altars as markers of remembrance, so that they and their descendants can remember what God did on their behalf.

In the Psalm 77, we see Asaph lay out a list of trials and troubles. And then he stops and focuses back on God, and writes:

I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. (Psalms 77:11 NASB)

From there, his lament turns to praise, his despair to faith in the promise of God.

Frequently in the Gospel of John, we see the disciples confused by something Jesus said. But John adds the note that “Later they remembered what is written in the Scriptures” or “Later they remembered that Jesus had said these things.”

Paul writes:

remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12, 13 NASB)

I wrote a piece of prose-poetry a while back that expresses my thoughts as I remember.

I’ve forgotten what it meant

that You reached out to the leper.

You saw the need and You responded.

I’ve forgotten what it meant that You ignored the condemning cries

and told the sinner, “Go and sin no more.”

I’ve forgotten what You came for.

Sitting with the wicked,

yet separated by Your virtue…

I separate myself by venue.

You reach down into the gutter

and lift up the one in need.

I’d be afraid to get dirt on my Sunday best.

My Christian tie could get ruined.

And You loved those You saw

as You traveled by foot from city to city.

I try not to get caught speeding,

since someone might see the fish

or the church bumper sticker on my car.

Miracles followed You.

They don’t seem to catch up with me.

You did all You could

to make the message known,

while I get scared someone might ruin

the gold edge of my Bible as I witness,

armed with a leather-bound book.

You were armed with a heart of love,

and You died innocent between two thieves

to heal the one who was sick but never knew it.

I’ve forgotten what it meant

that You reached out to the leper,

but now I remember Your touch.

And though nine others forget,

I’m coming back to thank You,

And I’m bringing some of my sick friends.

Memory fuels worship. Sometimes we need the reminder of where we were to push us once again into pursuit of God.

What memories inspire or propel you into action in your spirituality? Let me know in a comment.